Monday, 05 November 2018
Media release

More support for farmers and regional economies

Farmers in regional and rural areas around Australia will now receive more support to resolve labour shortages with new changes to two visa programs.

We don’t want fruit rotting on the vine or crops left in the field and it’s vital our farmers maximise their hard work and economic returns.

We will make a number of changes to the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa program to target genuine workforce shortages in regional Australia without displacing Australian workers.  

We will increase the number of visa holders and allow them to extend their time in Australia by undertaking agricultural work in new areas across the country.

We will also make a number of changes to the Seasonal Worker Program, making it easier for farmers to access workers for a longer period with less administration costs.

This work builds on the changes we made last month to get more Australian job seekers into work by filling farm shortages through the National Harvest Labour Information Service.

We want Australians filling Australian jobs but when this isn’t possible action was needed to ensure farmers weren’t left high and dry.

Our action today means our farmers will get immediate support, helping them reap the economic returns of their hard work.

We also know the vast majority of holiday makers spend big in our regions, delivering a return to small businesses and jobs. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said agriculture was a critical industry which underpinned regional economies and empowering a flexible work-force to meet varied labour demands was critical to success.

Mr McCormack said the WHM visa changes represented another pragmatic solution to address the problem of filling work-force shortages in the Australian farm sector.

“Our considered and measured approach ensures we continue to back farm businesses and communities to continue producing and supplying the world’s best food and fibre,” he said.

“We remain focused on addressing this issue by providing more workforce options and flexibility to help our farmers pick their fruit and harvest their crops.”

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said farmers had been calling for action in this space for some time.

“These are good steps towards getting farmers better access to labour,” Minister Littleproud said.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said the changes to the WHM visa program would help resolve agricultural labour shortages in regional and rural Australia.

“Lifting the annual caps on visas, expanding the number of regional areas where Work and Holiday makers can work for three months in specified farming work, and allowing 12 months of work with the same agricultural employer will assist farmers this growing season,” Mr Coleman said.

“These incentives will encourage more workers to the regions that need them and provide working holiday makers with more flexibility, as well as the opportunity to experience living and working in Australia’s rural communities.”

Changes to Working Holiday Maker visas:

  • Work and Holiday makers (subclass 462) will be able to undertake regional plant and animal cultivation work in additional priority areas to become eligible for a second visa.
  • Extension of the period a WHM (subclass 417 and 462) may work with the same agricultural employer from six to 12 months.
  • Introduction of a third year visa option for WHM (subclasses 417 and 462), who from 1 July 2019 onwards complete six months of regional work in the second year.
  • Increase the number of places available for Work and Holiday Maker program (subclass 462) by lifting annual caps available to a number of countries participating in the subclass 462 visa program.

Changes to the Seasonal Worker Program:

  • Increase work period in Australia to nine months for all workers (currently six months for some countries).
  • Increase validity of labour market testing prior to recruiting workers from three to six months.
  • Reduce out of pocket expenses for employers (workers repay their full travel costs except for the first $300; a reduction from the previous $500).